ABSTRACT: Homosexuals in England have a tendency to cluster together. This paper considers three areas in the north of England; Manchester, Blackpool and Hebden bridge, looking at why homosexuals are drawn to these places. Social identity theory plays a crucial part in this tendency for gays and lesbians to live together and this paper concludes that social identification is the main reason why homosexuals are found in large groups, rather than the area they are situated in. A lack of official statistics has meant that a definite conclusion has been difficult to make as to what draws homosexuals to cluster in specific places.
Homosexuality is becoming increasingly visible in England, due to a wider acceptance of alternative lifestyles in many parts of the country. This paper investigates the geography of homosexuality in the UK, looking at why gays and lesbians choose to live in certain areas. Focusing on the north of England, research was conducted on Manchester, Blackpool and Hebden Bridge (a small town in North Yorkshire), because they are geographically located (see figure 1) due to their different attributes; Manchester as a large urban city (A on map), Blackpool as a seaside town and tourist haven (B), and Hebden bridge as a rural town (C).
Figure 1 Map demonstrating locations of case studies: Manchester, Blackpool and Hebden Bridge
There has been a problem in this field of study due to a lack of reliable statistical data and information available for public use.
The hypothesis for this paper is that social identification is the reason homosexuals are clustering in certain areas. Social identity theory is the idea that there are three mental processes in evaluating people who are similar and people who are different. Starting with social categorisation, people are categorised into groups. Once grouped, people adopted the identity of the group and therefore act similar. The third mental process is social comparison, comparing people who don’t fit into the same group. Social identity is essentially a person’s sense of who they are, based on their group memberships. (Mcleod, 2008) This means that people are more likely to live with people they identify with and the reason why gay and lesbians appear to cluster together in certain places.
3. Case studies
The first case study, Blackpool was chosen because it has a large homosexual population. It is a popular tourist destination, because of many different attractions such as the iconic Blackpool Tower, adrenalin rushes at pleasure beach resort, and of course the beaches that accompany this seaside town (Visit Blackpool, N.D).
£300 million was put into regeneration for Blackpool in 2011, encouraging more people to move there. Gay and lesbian communities may have migrated here after regeneration because the town was spruced up, adding an energetic feel, and thus attracting all sorts of different, young individuals.
Figure 2 Blackpool pride celebrations
As a gay destination, Blackpool hosts an annual event, Blackpool pride, see figure 2, which has been running since May 2006. Blackpool also hosts quite a lot of evening attractions that may attract gay and lesbian communities for example cabaret shows. Such entertainment draws like-minded people to Blackpool resulting in a gay community living together for the services available. The gay friendly venues are clustered around Queen Street in Blackpool. According to a resident interview in Clift and Forest (1998), ‘Suddenly you’re like a sort of kid in a toy shop when you go somewhere like Blackpool it changes. You know, suddenly, you know, as a gay person you feel although you’re in a minority much more in the majority there’
This illustrates that the Blackpool gay community has formed because people want to live with those who are similar which relates back to the hypothesis of social identification theory. Blackpool may have